Archive for July, 2012

My First Motorcycle Speeding Ticket

Thursday, July 26th, 2012
The Kansas/Colorado state line on U.S. 36.

The Kansas/Colorado state line on U.S. 36.

I figured from the outset that by the time yesterday came around, when I had been on the road for 17 days and was headed home, that I would be like a horse headed for the stable. What I didn’t count on was that after a journey of nearly 3,900 miles, I would get stopped for speeding within 50 miles of home. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

In all my years of riding, this is the first time I have ever gotten a speeding ticket on a bike. Sure, I’ve had speeding tickets in cars, but never on a bike. I mentioned that to the officer and he laughed saying he had gotten plenty of tickets on his motorcycles when he was younger.

What happened was that I had come across Nebraska and Kansas, coming into Colorado on U.S. 36. Of all the states I’d been through, the only one I didn’t have a map for was Colorado. I was running low on gas and thought for sure there was a town out there called Last Chance. Isn’t there? Figured I’d get gas there. But I reached the Adams County line and passed the hazardous waste facility out there and still no Last Chance.

So without a map, I wasn’t clear on how far it was yet to Byers, where I knew I could get gas. I figured I must be a good ways yet, so I kept blasting. That’s when I passed this Arapahoe County Sheriff vehicle going the other way. I looked in my mirror and saw him pull over and then turn around. When he turned his flashers on I pulled over.

He was a nice enough guy, and I was certainly polite, and I let him know I had been riding for 17 days and was just a few miles from home, hoping he’d cut me a break. No such luck. I asked him how far till I could get gas and he told me Byers was just 15 miles ahead. Fifteen miles? Then the racetrack must be very close by, I said. Oh yes, it’s just up that hill, he said. And sure enough, when I took off again, I crested the hill immediately ahead of me and there was High Plains Raceway. Dang, if I’d know that I really suspect I would have slacked off on my speed a bit, knowing I was so close.

Oh well. It could have been worse. Truth is, I had been going a lot faster not that long before. I’ll take my ticket for going 77 in a 65 zone, rather the 87 or so that it might have been. I understand we need things like speed laws but I still fail to see how anyone was harmed by my going that fast way out there on the prairie with almost zero other traffic.

So one thing I did not do, at the end, was to say “Thank you” to the officer. I know that is a common thing that people do, because they’re trying to be completely polite and respectful to the officer. But that just strikes me as perverse. I acknowledged him and was very pleasant, but I did not say thank you. I really didn’t feel I had anything to thank him for. I really wish I’d never met him. Oh well.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Making the rounds at Vintage Motorcycle Days

Biker Quote for Today

Don’t mind the slidin’, the crunchin’, or even the sudden impact . . . it’s wakin’ up to the wife bitchin’ that bums me out!

Dropping Five More Benjamins Into The Connie

Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Kawasaki Concours on a lift for new tires

My Connie on the lift at Iron Pony, getting new tires.

That’s my Concours up on a lift, getting new tires at Iron Pony in Columbus, Ohio. Five hundred dollars later and a “free” t-shirt and I was on my way again.

The tires weren’t totally shot yet, but I’ll be cruising about 1,200 miles in the next three days coming home from Ohio, and after being home for one day I’ll be taking off again on another 1,500 mile ride. Today was the best day to get the work done and this way I have more peace of mind on the ride home. As it was, I wasn’t at all sure I’d even get home without stopping somewhere–probably at a very inconvenient point.

This is the second time in two years that I’ve had to get tires while out on the road. Last March I headed out for Arizona Bike Week figuring I had enough rubber to get home, but by the time I reached Scottsdale I knew I needed new tires immediately. That time I got lucky, though. I didn’t have to pay for mounting and the whole thing cost me about $270. This time it cost me just a couple dollars shy of $500.

Just as a point of reference, that’s double what I paid for my first car.

So the place I went to was Iron Pony, in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. I had heard about this place before and despite the price I was really glad they were there. First off, it was only just a few miles out of my way, and on top of that, they were open on Sunday. That’s really big right there.

The Iron Pony is quite a place. The building used to be a Super Kmart so as you can imagine, it’s huge. They work on bikes, they sell bikes both new and used, and they sell more motorcycle gear than you can imagine. And judging from what I saw, they have really good prices on a lot of stuff. High volume, low margin, you know.

And they were really nice. Don’t misunderstand my moaning about the price. It would have cost me just as much for tires somewhere else. I just hate the idea that two motorcycle tires cost more than four car tires and last one-fifth as long. But we all know that’s the case, so get over it.

So anyway, I’m set now. Tomorrow it’s on to Peoria, then a stop in Nebraska, and I’ll be home on Wednesday. I think I’ll be glad to get home.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Making the rounds at Vintage Motorcycle Days

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re becoming addicted to riding when you leave on the bike to get some dinner and get home only to realize you didn’t stop to eat.

Hitting 50 Thou On The Connie

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
The Connie and Judy at the Mackinac Bridge.

The Connie and Judy at the Mackinac Bridge.

I didn’t ride as much in earlier years as I do now, and I have two motorcycles that I divide my seat time between. At least those are my lame excuses for the fact that I just turned over 50,000 miles on my 1999 Concours. That averages less than 4,000 miles per year, but the last few years I have exceeded 10,000 and am looking at about 13,000 this year.

Or to put it a little differently, I bought new tires last year and am already looking at getting new tires again. Maybe before this trip is over.

So the spot where I turned over 50,000 on the Connie was a pretty nice place. We are in Michigan, and were in the Upper Peninsula (UP) approaching the Mackinac Bridge. As the bridge was coming into sight there was a viewpoint so we pulled off. It was then that I noticed the odometer was at 50000.3. Cool. That’s a shot above with Judy and the bike in the foreground and the bridge in the background.

It has been interesting riding in Wisconsin and Michigan, primarily because the other bikers here don’t seem nearly as inclined to wave in acknowledgement as they do back home. I can’t tell if it’s because they’re almost all on Harleys and we are not or whether they just don’t do that so much around here. I have noted, though, that a lot more people on non-Harleys do tend to wave. Approaching the Mackinac Bridge, though, I also suspect that a lot more of them are non-locals. The bridge and the UP are major tourist attractions.

We did chance upon a sweet motorcycle road once we got across the bridge and down into the Lower Peninsula. We immediately headed west to the coast, picking up MI 119 at Cross Village. Heading south toward Harbor Springs the road is called alternately the Tunnel of Trees and Lakeshore Drive. It hugs the coast.

You might more accurately say this is a motorcycle passenger’s road. The tight, frequent turns keep the rider’s attention totally focused and there is no time at all for sightseeing. Also, because it is barely one and one-half lanes wide, with lots of car traffic coming the other way and no shoulder, there are not that many places to pull off so the rider can enjoy the view.

That didn’t deter the bikers, though. Along with the cars we saw a considerable stream of bikes heading the other way. This is definitely a destination road.

Much of the rest of the time, unfortunately, the riding here is not nearly as interesting as in Colorado. When we ride up and down mountains the views are spectacular and ever changing. In this region you do way too much riding just following straight pavement between rows of trees. You know there is a lot of water, in the form of a lot of lakes and a couple really big lakes, close by, but you often do not see them. They’re over there somewhere.

Oh well. We’re still having a good time and seeing some new places. Today promises to be a nice ride, once again down the western coast of the Lower Peninsula. Now if it will just cool off enough so we’re not drowning in sweat.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Finding a great Michigan motorcycle road

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re becoming addicted to riding when you look for excuses to go to the store to buy a Snickers bar or to the bank just to check the balance . . . several times a day.

Off The Prairie, Into The Trees

Friday, July 13th, 2012
At a park on the Minnesota side of a river that divides that state from Wisconsin.

At a park on the Minnesota side of a river that divides that state from Wisconsin.

Three days of riding across the prairie and I reached Minneapolis. Picked Judy up at the airport and the next day we headed into Wisconsin. Suddenly it was no longer flat, and we were totally struck by the beauty of the landscape. Judy has never been to Wisconsin before and though I lived there for several years, it has been so long I had forgotten.

After a night in Gordon, NE, with some Motorcycle Travel Network people, I had stayed with a high school friend in Sioux Falls, SD. Then I rode on to the Minneapolis area and Judy and I stayed with another Motorcycle Travel Network person. Then it was on into Wisconsin where we are staying a couple days with friends from college. Tomorrow it is on to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we have a B&B set up.

The roads here are good, well paved, and on a grid, so if you don’t want to stay on a busy highway you just take any turnoff and get on the lesser roads. The amazing thing was how many bicyclists we encountered on some of these lesser roads. Is Wisconsin really a bicyclist’s paradise?

The weather has been hot but dry, though we really notice the humidity. As long as we keep moving the breeze through our mesh jackets keeps us comfortable, but stop for a few minutes or slog through city traffic and it gets hot very quickly. I’ve hardly seen anyone else in jackets–it’s all T-shirts.

Our UCLEAR communicators are working wonderfully. Being able to talk is terrific, and when it comes to following directions, having a navigator who can say “Turn right here” is very helpful. I’ve even found that the communicators work fine if I’m wearing ear plugs so that’s even better.

This is all new ground for us. We’ve never been up here before so it’s adventure time. We like that.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Boredom totally lacking in ride across the prairie

Biker Quote for Today

“I rode a lot of dirt bikes when I was younger, so I trust the chain and sprockets more than that newfangled voodoo shaft stuff!” –DolphinJohn

Finding Curvey Roads In Nebraska

Monday, July 9th, 2012
Nebraska Route 250

A pretty stretch of NE 250, though not the curviest of that road.

The most direct route looked pretty darn straight. But off to the east a bit was a squiggly line on the map that had some promise. A no-brainer. I took Nebraska 250 from a bit east of Alliance to U.S. 20 at Rushville. And I was rewarded. Who knew there were roads this squiggly in Nebraska?

So yes, I’m off on my 16-day, 3,000 mile trip out to Michigan and Ohio. The sky was looking threatening when I left home this morning but I figured I’d go cruise over to get gas before I really got going and see, in the process, what the rain would do. Well, I got about four blocks and it started pouring. I pulled into the shelter of an office building and put on my rain suit pants and jacket but didn’t figure I needed anything more. It wasn’t raining that hard.

Except that while I was putting those on it started raining harder. Within a minute my gloves were drenched beyond the point of doing anything about it. And after a few minutes I noticed something flapping and found that I had somehow forgotten to zip up my rain jacket, so my riding jacket was also soaked in the front. By this point I’m about 2 miles from home.

So I pulled into the shelter of the gas station and got organized and totally geared up. Of course, by the time I had done so–this being Colorado–the rain had mostly stopped. So I rode on and headed out by DIA, up Tower Road to Barr Lake and hit I-76 at Brighton. There I stopped and removed most of the rain gear because while the sky to the west looked like a boxer’s face after a title bout, to the east there was sunshine and puffy clouds.

As I rode everything dried out until things might never have been wet. The day remained cloudy and cool, which is to say comfortable, and I slabbed it to Sterling. At Sterling I went north to Sidney, NE, and on up to Alliance. Taking the main road north from Alliance would have taken me by Carhenge but that squiggly line on the map looked pretty good. What the heck, I’ve been to Carhenge several times before. Let’s try something new.

And I got to Rushville, turned east on U.S. 20, and was soon at Gordon, my stop-off place for the night. Staying here with a Motorcycle Travel Network couple. Yahoo! Road trip. I’m gone.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Vintage Motorcycle Days draws riders to Ohio

Biker Quote for Today

Total rookie who decided the best way to learn was to buy a bike in Ecuador and take her for a spin through South America.

Prepping For My Longest Trip Ever

Thursday, July 5th, 2012
The map of my upcoming trip

The yellow lines show the general route and the green dots show my stops.

I’m going to be leaving Monday on what will be the longest motorcycle trip I’ve ever taken. Should be interesting.

It started off when I decided I wanted to go to Vintage Motorcycle Days (VMD), an event the American Motorcyclist Association puts on each year outside of Lexington, OH.

When my brother in Ohio got wind of that he decided he wanted to tie my trip in to his latest business venture. He and a friend have started a winery and tasting room/cafe up in Northport, MI, and it has a biker theme to it. It’s called Motovino Cellars and their wines have names such as Cruiser, an un-oaked chardonnay; Thumper, a dry riesling; F-Head, a red table wine; and others.

Come visit our winery and write about it and help get the word out, he said. So I added Michigan to my itinerary.

Then I looked at a map and found that Northport is way up in northern Michigan, so that got me to thinking. I have friends in northern Wisconsin who I haven’t seen in a long time. I might as well run my route up that way.

Then things really started happening. I ended up with this: First night out to Gordon, NE, where I’ll stay with the first of four Motorcycle Travel Network (MTN) families. From there to Sioux Falls, SD, to see a high school friend I haven’t seen in 40 years. On to Minneapolis to another MTN house, then to northern Wisconsin to see those friends.

From there it will be through the Upper Peninsula with a night in Wells, MI, and then on to Northport. From Northport to Cedar Springs, MI, and another MTN family. Then to my brother’s in Yellow Springs, OH, for one night and then three nights at VMD, the original purpose of the trip. Follow that with another night at my brother’s in Yellow Springs and then on to Peoria, IL, to see a good friend–the best man at my wedding–who I haven’t seen since the wedding.

From there it’s on to Lawrence, KS, and the final MTN stop and the next day, the longest day of the trip, I’ll blast home. That’s 16 days and about 3,000 miles. Then, just for kicks, I’ll be home for one day and then off again for another week on the annual OFMC ride.

Oh man, I’m looking forward to this.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Pikes Peak hill climb reset for August 12

Biker Quote for Today

Adventure is what happens when you thought you were going to have a good time.

Canyon Carving On A Ducati Diavel

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I took a spin on a Ducati Diavel yesterday, thanks to Alan. Ducati did a demo ride thing but it was a bit different than the standard demo riding. It was by invitation only, and because it was in conjunction with Cycle World magazine, the invitations went out to Cycle World subscribers. Alan subscribes and he got a card in the mail and he followed up on it. He got in and they let you bring a friend, so he called me. Then the next day, I got a card in the mail, too, because I’m a subscriber as well. But I was already in.

Ducati Diavel, me, and Ducati girl

Me on the Ducati Diavel with one of the Ducati girls standing by.

Alan very wisely selected the 8:30 a.m. time slot for our ride. It was already blazing hot by the time we wrapped up. We met at his house at 7:30 and rode up to Broomfield, to the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, formerly Jefferson County Airport, and did the paperwork. First they gave us class on the development of the Diavel concept and went over things like switching modes on the bike. The Diavel has three modes, Urban, Touring, and Sport. Good to know how to switch from one to the other.

We headed out to ride, but first they took photos of each of us with one of the three Ducati girls standing by. Pretty silly in my opinion, but oh well.

One thing that was different with this demo ride than others was that they explicitly did not say “no passing.” This is fast motorcycle and they did not want the true go-fast guys to feel frustrated because they were behind slower guys, and therefore not have the chance to really run the bike. Alan and I both figured we belonged at the slow end of the group, but the bike I got was right in the middle. I mentioned this to the head guy and he told me to just pull off when the bikes pulled out and then jump in at the very end, right behind Alan. That suited me fine because I don’t like being in a tight group anyway.

We took off, snaking our way out of the metro area to Coal Creek Canyon and then started blasting. The Diavel can lean as far over as 41 degrees so they told us to push ourselves a little and trust the bike. I did and it handled superbly. And it was a pretty nice ride altogether. The seat height is only 30 inches so I could plant both feet firmly on the ground. It’s an upright riding position with the pegs beneath me, which I like. They said it could be considered a sport standard, which seems about right. Another descriptor was “sportbike that’s comfortable.”

We rode up Coal Creek a ways and then, at a small crossroads we turned around to head back down. A young guy came running over to me with great interest, asking what model it was. Guess he thought the Diavel looked pretty dang cool. I’d agree. Your first impression may be uncertain–mine was–but the more you look at it the better you like it. Or at least I did.

Back down on the prairie, we blasted back to the airport on 120th and hit some high speeds. Without a windshield I found it worked best to lean way forward and hit the wind with the top of my helmet, rather than my chest. And oh my, what power. The Diavel has 162 horsepower and weighs only about 450 pounds. That is one powerful motorcycle.

So anyway, back to the starting point and get off the bikes, then fill out a brief survey. Yes I liked the bike, no I won’t be buying one any time soon. I already have two motorcycles and I can’t afford a Ducati, no matter how much I like it. Then as a thank-you they gave us some very cool Ducati-branded flash drives with a lot of promotional material on them and copies of the photos they took of us on the bikes with the Ducati girls. Nice touch.

Note: If you are a real person and wish to leave a comment, let me apologize for making that temporarily impossible. These damn comment spammers are swarming in such numbers that I just turned commenting off. But if you’re a real person and want to leave a real comment, send me an email and I’ll make it happen for you. I always appreciate real comments; I just get really fed up with the spammers.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Ducati Diavel is a sportbike that is comfortable

Biker Quote for Today

Go fast and hang on tight!